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McMahon Associates

Neenah, WI

March 2022


McMahon Associates Finds Revit’s Missing Piece in Design Master Electrical RT

McMahon Associates Electrical Engineering Team
Left to right: Scott Mahnke, Kirsten Smith, Jennifer Reibold, Jill FitzSimons, Mickey Sanders
Not pictured: Dawn Merlin

 

McMahon Associates, Inc., is a full-service architectural and engineering firm that takes on all manner of projects, from horizontal and vertical building construction to roadway lighting to wastewater treatment. When Jill FitzSimons, PE, brought her engineering expertise to the firm in 2019, she also brought more than a decade of experience with Design Master. “At my last firm, we used Design Master [Electrical] for AutoCAD, and I’ve been using it since 2003,” she recalls. “I’ve been a big fan of it. It allowed us to do a lot of the things that you’re able to do now in Revit.”

A “No-Brainer” Decision

McMahon Associates had been using Revit, in conjunction with Excel, for most of their building projects prior to Jill’s arrival. “But there was still a piece missing,” she explains, “and that piece was Design Master [Electrical RT] for Revit.”

When Jill started the trial in 2020, she found the distribution tree in Design Master’s Panel Edit command immediately helpful: “It makes it a lot easier—even when you’re making the connections within Revit, you’re working blind without that.” The add-in’s use of shared parameters also allowed her to add its wire callouts to panel schedules, “and that’s especially important if I have to upsize the branch circuit for voltage drop.” When the time came to purchase a license, she says, “It was just a no-brainer to go with it.”

There were a few transition difficulties initially; primarily, the designers and drafters were largely unfamiliar with the BIM details they now needed to define. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Jill and her team to find a suitable workflow. “I’ve put together worksheets for the designer/drafter types, so when I’m designing, I can mark that all up, and they’re basically inputting information,” she explains. “They don’t necessarily understand all of the information that’s going into it, but it allows them to almost act as data entry. Right now, I’ve been going through and creating all the equipment and laying that stuff out … but I’ve been able to get all our designers on board with getting the right information in.”

Calculations That Are Right on the Money

Jill most appreciates the add-in's integrated calculations, recalling several instances where they came in handy. “We had a large medical office building with an I-2 occupancy, so hospital and medical office building all in one,” she says. “I can’t even imagine trying to keep that project straight had we done it the manual way, with Excel for the feeder schedule or voltage drop or fault current.”

When Design Master Electrical 2.0 was released, Jill was especially excited to learn she could now calculate fault for branch circuits. “It’s a really nice feature, and it keeps us out of hot water,” she says. “Say if I specify something that was 22,000 [AIC rating], but really we’re a little above that, and it needs to go up to a 42,000 or something, that can make a big difference in price and then be a change order. If you can avoid a change order with a simple Calculate Project, it just pays for itself.”

On a project where she was able to compare the design to the contractor’s results in the field, she says, “We were almost right on the money for pretty much every single one.” In the end, she concludes, “As long as you start with good information at the utility, you’re matching some of these very high-powered programs, and we’re able to do it in Revit.”

“I can sleep easy at night, knowing it’s accurate and it’s correct.”
Jill FitzSimons, PE

Puts the Mind at Ease

When asked if she could see more companies adopting tools like Design Master, she responds, “Any firm that does electrical design work, if they’re not using Design Master, I think they’re missing out. The product that they’re putting out is not as complete.” But for her, she says, “I can sleep easy at night, knowing it’s accurate and it’s correct.”

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